The number of teeth affected by decay is about one third more in Aboriginal children compared with non-Aboriginal children in Victoria, according to Dental Health Services Victoria.
The data was collected by Dental Health Services Victoria based on patients visiting public dental clinics in 2013/14.
DHSV CEO, Dr Deborah Cole said that while the dental health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians still existed, great progress has been made.
“We have worked very hard to reverse the trend and the figures are looking positive,” Dr Cole said.
“10 years ago, our data showed that Aboriginal children had almost twice the number of teeth affected by decay compared with non-Aboriginal children.”
“That difference is now 30 per cent, meaning that although Aboriginal children still have higher levels of oral disease, the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children is closing. Part of that reason is improving access to dental care.”
The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne has seen a steady increase in its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, thanks to the its efforts to bring better care to the community.
One of them is introducing an Aboriginal Liaison Officer in 2007 to greet and support patients and their families receiving care.
“We had only 50 Aboriginal patients visiting the hospital in 2007/08, and in 2013/14, we treated more than 1,100 patients, and this story is reflected in public dental clinics across the State,” Dr Cole said.
“Our Aboriginal Liaison Officer provides support to our Aboriginal patients and also liaises with agencies to make sure they can access the services in the best way possible.”
Dental Health Services Victoria’s unique Indigenous Dental Assistant Traineeship program has also been hugely successful so far, with two of its graduates being the first Indigenous students to be accepted in La Trobe University’s dentistry program.
“We want to create a culturally inclusive team that can meet the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
“More and more Aboriginal Victorians are accessing care in our public dental clinics and we want to make sure we can provide dental access to even more in the community.”